The Most Heartbreaking Story You’ll Read All Day

Nov 9th, 2006 // 3 Comments

The Chicago Reader’s Post No Bills blog has a fascinating (and, be warned, painfully sad) story on the suicide of Malachi Ritscher, a free-jazz expert and historian who was a fixture of the city’s improvised music scene. Ritscher apparently set himself on fire last Friday in the middle of rush-hour traffic, leaving behind a long suicide note expressing his frustration with the war, and a long musical legacy:

Although Ritscher, who was in his early 50s, had played music off and on over the years, he was best known for his devotion to documenting other people’s shows. Several nights a week for at least the last decade he could be found at places like the Empty Bottle, the Velvet Lounge, and the Hungry Brain; by his own count he recorded more than 2,000 concerts.

Over the years he invested more money in equipment and as his skills improved, many of his recordings went to be used on commerical releases–by Paul Rutherford, Gold Sparkle Band, Isotope 217, Irene Schweizer, and Ken Vandermark among others. Ritscher was fiercely modest about these pursuits–I once tried to do a piece on him for the Reader but he declined, saying he didn’t want publicity.

The full story is below, and for anyone interested in how one person can affect can entire music community, it’s a must-read (as are the reader comments). We don’t pretend to know a whole lot about the bands that Ritscher followed so passionately, but we do recognize that kind of uncontrollable passion for music. It’s hard to find a postive in all of this, but if anyone’s putting together some sort of benefit compilation, put us down for two copies.

Anyway, sorry to throw you the heavy so early in the morning. We’ll get that new Gwen Stefani video up soon, we promise!

Malachi Ritscher’s apparent suicide [Chicago Reader]

  1. netzoo

    Wow, a huge loss to an unbelievably modest enabler of great music.

    I will be listening to Brotzmann Tentet and Vandermark live CDs all day in memory.

    R.I.P. Malachi.

  2. Mick Kraut

    I am sorry that the guy felt like he didnt have any other way to carry on…it is a tragedy when someone just lets go like that…such a selfish act…

  3. SlimShadenfruede

    I blame Bush for this one. He’s ruined my adult years forever.

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